Just like there are many lock maintenance techniques; there are different reasons that locks may develop weak spots. Knowing the pitfalls to avoid is crucial. To void the pitfalls, notice the signs of weak locks. They will appear dry, brittle, overall unhealthy with low response to normal styling. The reasons for the weakening can vary. However, if the following pitfalls are avoided, a strong lock journey could be in your future!
Mist hair with water before tightening!
New growth must be treated with care. It’s soft and fluffy to the touch, seems durable; but, don’t be fooled. The new growth is the same texture as the fragile hair that gathered knots, tangles, and tears before the hair was locked up. It needs to be handled with care. Always dampen the hair with a mist of water before tightening. Dry, tightly coiled hair is fragile hair, period. Regardless of the technique, loose hair at the base of the scalp should be managed only when damp to ensure hair remains strong and supple for the lock journey to come.
Know your Tool!
If locks are maintained/tightened with a tool, it’s essential that the tool is appropriate for fragile hair, no rigid, sharp sides, the point should be slightly dulled, not sharp to the touch. Be consistent and try to avoid switching tool for the best outcomes. Make sure the tool is comparable to the size of the loc! A large sewing needle should not be used on a small - sized Sisterlock, for example.
Tighten that Technique!
Locks can be maintained many different ways. Some choose palm-rolling, others latch root-beds with a tool for tightenings and others may use a combination of both or nothing at all. Once again, no matter what the method is be consistent! If it’s a 2 point rotation, stick to that. If it’s 4,6,8 or more rotation points, just be consistent. Start in the same position and tighten in the same direction to ensure the health of the lock, avoiding weak areas from forming. Locs should be tightened every 4-6 weeks. Anything more frequently can result in weakened locks. Play around with braid-outs or curly styles to get through the stage where the root-bed releases, looking puffy and free. If locks are tightened with a tool, leave at least a quarter inch at the base of loose hair to avoid over-tightening. If a hair bump develops (follicular inflammation), you have tightened too far and too much. This can result in alopecia, damaging the follicles ability to produce a strand of hair. Be cautious, gentle and judicious with the technique.
Don’t Be Consistent with Insertion Points!
What? After all this consistency, now I shouldn't be consistent with the insertion point? Yup. Ok, if locks are being maintained with a tool, it requires some type of insertion, and some type of rotation. Rotate the new growth in the direction of the latch with a gentle roll and focus on not inserting the tool in the exact same hole as initially inserted. If the latch tool is entered in the same hole, the result can be a Y-formation or a hole in the locks. It’s not okay to repetitively enter through the same hole. The locks would become weak and fragile from the holes.
A Y-formation is when the hair distinctly separates into two separate parts, forming a Y along the scalp. A hole and a Y-formation are both resolved by repeating a latch to the right of the original point of insertion. If there’s no more new growth to latch, remember to start the next retightening section to close the hole. For example, this picture shows a letter Y-formation as the first lock along the hairline above the left ear. Close the Y-formation by inserting the latch tool from north to south, across the top of the Y formation. If holes remain along the lock shaft, they can be fixed by sewing the hole closed with a thread and needle. Tie a knot and clip the ends of the thread. This will erase the hole. Holes in locks are a result of improper latching and unique to tool locks. Simply ‘sew’ up the hole by inserting the tool through the hole by beginning the next latch insertion point to the side of the hole, closing it up. It is important to address this error because it can lead to lock breakage, if left unresolved.
One of the easiest things to do is to lock tightly coiled hair and leave it alone. Unless. The desired outcomes is a manicured lock, in which, there can be one or more pitfalls along the journey. Overly maintaining locks by tightening too often can be detrimental. Conversely, not maintaining locks that are micro in size can be detrimental. Finding the right tension, timing and insertion points are essential steps to create a manicured lock that is healthy and strong. To ensure your journey is sound, be aware of the pitfall of the infamous ‘Y’. Avoid the Y.
Holes along a lock are almost always due to improper technique. Over tightening, not tightening with enough tension, and improper insertion technique will often result in weak areas along the lock, due to improper matrix formation. This phenomena is not often seek in locks that are maintained by palm-rolling, because there is no tool insertion and often an even distribution of hair palm-rolled along the shaft of the lock, preventing opportunities for holes. Unlike tool locks, that rely upon an insertion point and tool technique for even distribution of the matrix. This is a big deal, so watch it!
Watch the Dye!
Hair dye is a chemical, period. If hair free of chemicals is dyed, the composition changes because a chemical reaction occurs. The hair is no longer in it’s natural state as the cuticle is stripped, melanin removed and color deposited into the cortex. This very assault on the hair is traumatic and should only be attempted by an expert. If hair is to be dyed, dye before lock installation to avoid unraveling, bunching, weakening of the lock and other issues that will not result in a healthy locing journey. Yes, there will be some who dye their hair after they lock. Be prepared for issues and possibly a re-do if new locks are dyed before the hair is fully loced. A good time to dye would be after month 18 when the hair is truly loced and entering maturity, some successfully die at month 12; however, the locs are not truly settled at that stage.
Watch the Henna!
Yes, Henna is a natural hair coloring agent. However, it slightly alters the protein composition of the hair. Protein is the backbone of the strength of the hair strand, can result in straightening the hair within the loc matrix. The purpose of locing is to matt and tangle, therefore, straightening can weaken the loc. Also, henna ‘deposits’ it’s residue, thus the color. The residue deposits within the hair strands and the loc matrix. This residue can cause unsightly build up issues later that slowly eat away at the loc, weakening the shaft of the loc.
Stay Away From the Scissors!
Once upon a time, manicuring locs during year 1 of the loc journey was a big deal! Don’t do it. If the lock are frizzy, well they are supposed to frizz. If they are dropping hair-balls. Well, let them. Scissors can interrupt the formation of the loc matrix, resulting in weakened locs. Just say no and #locon.
Evaluate your Health!
Working in environments high in Aluminum can wreck havoc on the immune system, resulting in hair loss. Post surgical care involves elimination from surgical chemicals. This elimination will come out through our hair, skin and nails if not properly eliminated through the digestive track. A diet high in fatty foods, leads to dry skin/scalp and hair. Unmonitored blood pressure can result in hair loss. Medicine that manages blood pressure can impact hair health. Evaluate your healthy, drink lots of water, eat foods rich in Vitamin E and nutrient block builders for optimum hair, skin and nail health. If hair is weak, falling out, seeking an internal medicine physician may help to resolve underlying issues. Hair falling out and locks weakening are not the same thing, but can be clues to a trained professional. Evaluate carefully! Adding exercise routines such as Yoga, high in inversion practice can help as well.
Do moisturize your locks when you wash them. Soak them once a month in a warm basin of water. Add a capful of aloe vera juice or gel with an essential oil and a capful of african black soap shampoo and let them soak. Follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse. Then bath the cap with your favorite herbal tea. If hair is uber dry, add a dime size of jojoba to them and massage. That's all that's needed to keep locks supple and moist for the dry, winter months while making it around these obstacles.
There are many reasons a loc can weaken. It’s better to look at lifestyle choices and preferences because locks can be impacted by internal as well as external forces. If a surgery with chemicals for pain is unavoidable, make sure to do a thorough detoxing cleanse of the internal body and scalp. There are detox teas available that can be consumed as well as applied to the scalp for a treatment. Multiple cleanses may be necessary to rid the body of chemicals 2-8 months post surgery when it’s attempting to release from the body. If the tightening technique is to blame, It’s easier to develop weak spots from using a tool, following improper techniques that from palm-rolling. However, palm-rolling is not free of concerns. Over tightening/maintaining locks via either techniques, can result in weak locks that break. Post surgical elimination of toxins can result in weak locks that break. Unhealthy hair that is damaged from perm or hair dyes can result in weak locks that break.